The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

Sheila Musaji

Posted Mar 22, 2006      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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An important 83-page study The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy was recently released by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University.  A shorter, edited version of this document was published by the London Review of Books.  The introduction to this study states the importance of this discussion.

U.S. foreign policy shapes events in every corner of the globe.  Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East, a region of recurring instability and enormous strategic importance.  Most recently, the Bush Administration’s attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman.  With so much at stake for so many, all countries need to understand the forces that drive U.S. Middle East policy.
The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy.  For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel.  The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and eopardized U.S. security.
This situation has no equal in American political history.  Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?  One might assume that the bond between the two countries is based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperativs.  As we show below, however, neither of those explanations can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States povides to Israel.

Instead, the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the “Israel Lobby.” Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.1  

In the pages that follow, we describe how the Lobby has accomplished this feat, and how its activities have shaped America’s actions in this critical region.  Given the strategic importance of the Middle East and its potential impact on [1] others, both Americans and non‐Americans need to understand and address the Lobby’s influence on U.S. policy.
Some readers will find this analysis disturbing, but the facts recounted here are not in serious dispute among scholars.  Indeed, our account relies heavily on the work of Israeli scholars and journalists, who deserve great credit for shedding light on these issues.  We also rely on evidence provided by respected Israeli and international human rights organizations.  Similarly, our claims about the Lobby’s impact rely on testimony from the Lobby’s own members, as well as testimony from politicians who have worked with them.  Readers may reject our conclusions, of course, but the evidence on which they rest is not controversial.

Haaretz almost immediately published an article discussing this study, and the comments under the article show that Haaretz’ readers are concerned.  The anti-war movement has picked up on the importance of this study.  There has not been much written yet in the mainstream press, or even on Arab or Islamic sites, but this will certainly change as this study becomes more widely read.  UPI reports that the article, ” already stirring furious debate in U.S. academic and intellectual circles”. 

And, of course the smear attack on the authors has already begun, and the first attack ably responded to by Glenn Greenwald in an article entitled “Using Character Smears to Prevent Foreign Policy Discussions.”  Already the authors of the study have been accused of anti-semitism which has traditionaly been enough to stifle debate, and one article even manages to sneak the term islamofascists into the discussion.  And, when even a play about Rachel Corrie was too hot for New York it is likely that this study and its authors will be attacked in every way possible to lessen the impact, and to discourage most people from reading the actual document and drawing their own conclusions.

I am certain that we will see this discussion escalate over the coming months.

We will continue to add references to articles on this study as they are published.

The Missng Piece
David Duke and Harvard’s New Protocols of the Elders of Zion
A Reply to Mearsheimer and Walt
Academic Malpractice
A Follow up on the Israeli Lobby
Duke 1, Harvard 0
Stephen Walt’s War With Israel
The Israel Lobby
Professor Says American Publisher Turned Him Down
Mainstream Press Ignores Paper on Israeli Lobby
Diverging Opinions on Israeli Lobby Study
Zionist Organization of America Attempts to Smear Study
Harvard to Remove Official Seal from Study
Israeli Lobby Paper Proves True
An Israeli Response to the Israeli Lobby Study
Why Is U.S. Policy Skewed Towards Israel